Posts Tagged ‘Armed Forces’

Message from the Stop the War Coalition about their National Day of Action Tomorrow

June 24, 2022

Stop the War Coalition sent me this email this afternoon giving the details about the protests they’ve organised up and down the country as part of a day of action tomorrow, Saturday 25th June 2022.

International Day of Action – Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine. It also coincides with Armed Forces Day and the NATO Summit in Madrid where global leaders will discuss upping the alliance’s ante in response to Ukraine.

That means we must step up our campaign too. Tomorrow is the anti-war’s opportunity to get out onto the streets and say loud and clear No To War & No To NATO. 

The British government has taken one of the most aggressive and belligerent positions on the conflict. Britain is pouring arms into Ukraine and is training Ukrainian troops. Boris Johnson has twice flown to Kyiv to pour cold water on any prospect of peace negotiations. Our focus has to stay on shifting British government policy and opening up prospects for a negotiated end to the war. 

In London we are holding a protest tomorrow outside the Ministry of Defence. We will be there from 2:00-4:00 pm. Do join us.

We have a great line-up of speakers including: Mohammad Asif, Director of Afghan Human Rights Foundation; Alex Gordon, President of RMT; Lindsey German, Convenor StWC; Andrew Murray, Vice President StWC; Roger McKenzie, Liberation general secretary; Kate Hudson, CND general secretary; and musician Sean Taylor.

Join the Protest Tomorrow

And, it’s not just London… The anti- war movement is growing all over the UK. We have a record number of groups up and down the country organising on a local level, from Dorset to ManchesterSheffield to Shrewsbury!

Get along down to your local event. Find the FULL list and details by clicking below. 

Protests Around the Country

We are asking all groups to report back on how it went. So please do send us pictures and a few sentences about your Day of Action by emailing us back so we can include yours in our roundup.

.Email us Back!

Their email also discusses a new pamphlet available from the Coalition against NATO’s aggressive eastward expansion. This helped to provoke Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, although that certainly doesn’t it excuse his invasion.

NATO; A WAR ALLIANCE – NEW PAMPHLET!

Get your pamphlet – newly updated for 2022 today.

The events of 2022 have put the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its policies under the spotlight more than at any time in the post-Cold War period. The brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in February forced many to reflect on the effect of NATO’s aggressive eastward expansion. Though it does not excuse Russia, there is no doubting that it has contributed to the current dangerous situation the world finds itself in.

Featuring contributions from Andrew Murray, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson, Chris Nineham, Carol Turner, Matt Willgress and Jenny Clegg.

Get your pamphlet Today!

Stop the War Coalition Organises Protest Against Blair’s Knighthood

June 5, 2022

Yesterday I got the latest email newsletter from the Stop the War Coalition, detailing their forthcoming protests against the war in Ukraine, the government’s increased funding for the British military, which is particularly noxious given the government’s lukewarm response to the cost of living crisis, and their protest against Blair being granted a knighthood. The Coalition’s assembling a demonstration at Windsor on the 13th, when Blair is due to join the others being inducted into the Order of the Garter. Blair’s a war criminal through his illegal invasion of Iraq, which killed 100,000 people and displaced a further two million. The same invasion wrecked the country, destroying its relatively secular, welfare state. This was replaced by sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias, women may no longer work outside the home as they formerly could under Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the mercenary troops brought in as part of the occupation amused and enriched themselves through running drugs and prostitution rings and shooting innocent Iraqis for sport. Not all of this carnage is Blair’s responsibility. A large part of it is his mate’s George W. Bush. But he was actively complicit, and, as books have argued, deserves to be up before the Court of International Human Rights or whatever on charges of war crimes. And this is quite apart from his role in the similar destruction of Libya, which has resulted in the Islamist nutters there opening slave markets again. They are also calling on their supporters to organise protests in their local community on the 25th of this month. I won’t be able to attend any of these demonstrations, but I’m putting up notice of them for those who may.

Protest: No Knighthood for Tony Blair – 13 June

Tony Blair should be heading to The Hague. Instead, on 13th June he will be heading to the castle at Windsor where he will be knighted by the Queen.

Despite the disastrous legacy of Blair’s foreign policy the British establishment has learnt few lessons. Blair has blood on his hands and is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians as well as servicemen and women in Afganistan and Iraq. He is the least deserving person of any public honour.

Join the Stop the War protest at the annual Garter Day procession in Windsor and let the world know there is only one court that Blair should be attending, and it’s not the royal one.

We’re assembling at 1pm at the Queen Victoria Statue on Castle Hill, Windsor, SL4 1PD to say ‘Jail Blair! No knighthoods for war criminals’.

For those traveling from London we will be meeting at Paddington Station at midday for the 12:20 train. Changing at Slough at 12:36.

Yes, I’ll be there

18 June: Peace & Anti-War Bloc – TUC ‘We Demand Better!’ March

Boris Johnson is set to announce further unprecedented increases in the UK’s military budget despite his woefully inadequate response to the biggest cost of living crisis in our lifetime. We believe that taxpayer’s money should be prioritised for our public services and protecting people’s livelihoods rather than new technologies of mass killing.

Stop the War is supporting the TUC’s ‘We Demand Better’ demonstration against the soaring costs of living on June 18th to say ‘Cut War Not Welfare’. Let’s get on the streets and make our voices heard.

I’m Joining the Anti-War Bloc on 18 June

International Day of Action – 25 June

We are asking all our groups to organise a local protest on the International Day of Action on 25 June. In the run up this we need to be broadening and deepening the movement everywhere. We ask every group to put together an action plan including:
– Stalls every weekend to build for 25 June, leafletting, collecting signatures and building a local base of activists.

– A public meeting/rally if you haven’t held one, a follow up meeting if you have.

– A systematic campaign to get our resolution passed in trades councils and trade union branches.

– Banner drops and stunts.

– Cultural events – music nights, spoken word events, film screenings etc.


There is a wide range of people and organisations who can help build a Stop the War group, including trade unionists and trades councils, peace movement activists, local churches and mosques, Labour Party activists, Momentum groups, environmental campaigners etc. Please make sure you approach all of these as you organise the campaign.

I’m Organising An Event on 25 June

A History of Racism in the Islamic Middle East

May 27, 2022

Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (Oxford: OUP 1990).

Bernard Lewis is a veteran scholar of Islam, and this book is an examination of the emergence and development of predominantly Muslim Arab racism in the Middle East. The book is a reworking of two previous studies from the 1970s, one of which was first published in French. It started off as part of an academic examination of intolerance, concentrating on religious bigotry. Lewis, however, believed that issue had been solved and so moved on to racial intolerance. Unfortunately, as the past fifty years have unfortunately shown, religious hatred and bigotry has certainly not died out, as shown here in Britain with the sectarian violence in Ulster.

Arab Ethnic Identity Before Colour Prejudice

Islam is viewed as an anti-racist religion, and the Qur’an states categorically that Blacks and Whites are both equal and should be treated as such. This admirable attitude was maintained by its theologians and jurists. However, with the emergence and expansion of the Islamic empires this began to change and prejudice and racism, based initially in ethnic differences and then on skin colour, emerged. The book argues that the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabs, like the other nations around them, had a strong sense of their own superiority against those of the surrounding peoples. This was based on ethnicity, not colour. A variety of colours were used to describe the variations in human complexion, and were used in relative rather than absolute terms. Thus the Arabs saw themselves as black compared to the ‘red’ Persians, but white compared to the Black peoples of Africa. As the new Arab ruling class intermarried with the peoples they had conquered, so there developed an attitude which saw Arabs of mixed descent as inferior, leading to dynastic conflicts between those of pure and mixed race. Muslim Arabs also saw themselves as superior to converts to Islam from the indigenous peoples of the Islamic empire, and a set of rules developed to enforce the converts’ inferior social status. At the same time, the Arabs formed various explanations based on the environment for the ethnic differences they observed among different peoples. An Iraqi writer believed that Whites had been undercooked in the womb due to the coldness of the environment they occupied. Blacks, on the other hand, were overcooked. The Iraqi people, however, were brown and mentally and physically superior to the other two races.

Development of Anti-Black Prejudice

As Islam expanded into sub-Saharan Africa anti-Black racism developed. This did not initially exist, not least because Ethiopia had been one of the major superpowers in the Arabian peninsula with a superior culture. Muslims also respected the Abyssinians for giving sanctuary to many of Mohammed’s followers during their persecution by the Meccan pagans. Over time, however, an attitude of contempt and racial superiority emerged towards Blacks. This racism even extended towards highly regarded Black Arabic poets and the governors of provinces, who were reproached and vilified for their colour by their enemies. Here Arab racist views of Blacks is nearly identical to those of White European racists. They were seen as lazy, ugly, stupid and lustful. The prurient view of Black women as boiling with sexual desire mirrors the racist attitude towards Jewish women amongst western anti-Semites. On the other hand, Blacks were also seen as strong, loyal, generous and merry. They also had excellent rhythm. Although both Whites and Blacks were enslaved, White slaves had a higher status and different terms were used to describe them. White slaves were mawlana, literally, ‘owned’. Only Black slaves were described as slaves, abid, a term that is still used to mean Black people in parts of the Arab world today.

The expansion of the European states and empires effectively cut off or severely diminished the supply of White slaves, and as a consequence the value of Black slaves began to rise. Unable to afford White slaves and concubines from Europe and the Caucasus, the peoples of the Middle East turned instead to Abyssinians and the Zanj, Black Africans from further south. Abyssinians in particular were prized for their beauty and other qualities, and its from this period that the Arab taste for the beauty of Black Africans rather than Whites developed. And as anti-Black racism developed, so Muslims scholars and authors wrote pieces defending Blacks from racism, not least because many of Mohammed’s Companions had been Black and the emergence of powerful Muslim kingdoms in Africa.

Islamic Slavery and Slave Armies

Islamic slavery was comparatively milder and more enlightened than western slavery. Although technically slaves could not own property and were disbarred from giving evidence in court, there was limitations on the punishments that could be inflicted on them. Muslims were urged to treat their slaves humanely and manumission was praised as a noble act. It was particularly recommended for the expiation of particular sins. At the same time Islam permitted contracts to be made between master and slave allowing the slave to save enough money to purchase his freedom at an agreed date. There were stories of particular Muslims who freed their slaves even in circumstances where punishment would have been expected. One master freed a female slave after she asked him why he was still alive, as she had been trying to poison him for a year. Slaves could rise to high office. The viziers and other chief dignitaries of the Ottoman empire were slaves. Slaves were used to staff Muslim armies, and there were separate regiments for White and Blacks slaves. Sometimes this resulted in battles between the two, as during the dynastic battles where one side used Black soldiers and the other White. The mamlukes, the Egyptian warriors who ruled Egypt and who expelled the Crusaders and stopped the Mongols conquering the Middle East, were White slaves. They were freed after completing their military training and their leaders preferred to purchase other slaves for training as their successors rather than pass on their position to their own children.

Islam’s acceptance and regulation of slavery, like Judaism, Christianity and other religions, as well as the views of ancient philosophers like Aristotle, also meant that there was opposition to its abolition. Muslim defenders of slavery produced the same arguments as their Christian counterparts, including the argument that Blacks and other infidels were better off enslaved as it introduced them to a superior civilisation. When a 19th century British consul inquired of the king of Morocco what steps he was taking regarding slavery and the slave trade, he was politely informed that all the legislation was based on the Qur’an and sharia and that there was no intention of banning slavery as it was permitted by Islam. Indeed, the Ottoman province of the Hijaz, the area around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was exempt from the Ottoman ban on slavery and the slave trade after the ulema and nobles declared it to be an attack on Islam, along with legislation allowing women to go in public without the veil. The Turks were declared to be apostates, who could be killed and their children enslaved. Many of the pilgrims to Mecca came with a number of slaves, who acted as living sources of funding. When the pilgrim needed more money, he sold one or two of them.

The Myth of Muslim Non-Racism

In the last two chapters, Lewis discusses the emergence of the view of Islam as completely non-racist and that its slavery was benign. He argues that this was largely the creation of western scholars reacting to the horrors of New World slavery during the American Civil War. Christian missionaries also contributed to this myth. They attempted to explain their failure to make converts by arguing that it was due to Black African revulsion against harsh western slavery. In fact it was due to differences of colour. Islam spread because it was promoted by Black African preachers, rather than White westerners. Particularly influential in the creation of this myth was Edward Blydon, a Black West Indian who was educated in Liberia by the missionaries. He became convinced that Islam was more suited to the needs of Black people, and his books also stressed White guilt, contrasting it with Muslim tolerance. Lewis also believes that the myth is also due to a widespread feeling of guilt among western Whites, which he sees as the modern counterpart to Kipling’s White man’s burden.

Along with the text of the book itself are extensive notes and a documentary appendix containing texts including a Muslim discussion on national character, the rights of slaves and diplomatic correspondence and observations on the 19th century slave trade.

Race and Slavery Compared with Brown’s Slavery & Islam

This book should ideally be read alongside Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam, as the two present contrasting views of slavery and racism in Islam. Brown is a White, American academic and convert to Islam. While he condemns slavery totally, his book presents a much more positive view of Islamic slavery compared with western servitude and even the conditions endured by 19th century free European workers. He also extensively discusses Islamic abolition and the voices for it, while Lewis lays more stress on Muslim opposition. Brown recognises the existence of racism in the Islamic world, but also emphasises Muslim anti-racist texts like The Excellence of the Negroes. But as Lewis points out, these texts also show the opposite, that there was racism and bigotry in the Muslim world.

Lewis also recognises that Muslim slaves generally enjoyed good conditions and were treated well. However, the real brutality was inflicted on them during the journey from their place of capture to the Islamic heartlands. He also suggests that this relatively benign image may be due to bias in the information available. Most Muslim slaves were domestic servants, unlike the mass of slave labouring on the plantations in America. There were gangs of slaves working cotton plantations and employed in mining and public works, and these laboured in appalling conditions. It may also be that there were more slaves working in agriculture than recognised, because the majority of the information available comes from the towns, and so ignore what may have been the harsher treatment in the countryside.

He also discusses the absence of descendants of the Black slaves, except for a few pockets, in the modern Middle East. David Starkey in an interview for GB News claimed it was because the Muslim slave masters killed any babies born by their slaves. I don’t know where he got this idea. Lewis doesn’t mention such atrocities. He instead suggests that it may have been due to the castration of large numbers of boys to serve as eunuchs in the harems. The other slaves were forbidden to marry and have sex, except for female slaves purchased for that purpose. Slaves were also particularly vulnerable to disease, and so an epidemic lasting five years could carry off an entire generation.

Importance of the Book for an Examination of Contemporary Racial Politics

I was interested in reading this book because of the comparative lack of information on slavery and racism in Islam, despite the existence of books like Islam’s Black Slaves. Lewis in his introduction states that researching the issue may be difficult and dangerous, as it can be interpreted as hostility rather than a genuinely disinterested investigation. I think there needs to be more awareness of the history of Muslim slavery and Islam. For one reason, it explains the emergence of the slave markets in that part of Libya now occupied by the Islamists. It also needs to be more widely known because, I believe, the emphasis on western historic slavery and racism can present a distorted image in which the west is held to be uniquely responsible for these evils.

Stop the War Coalition Demonstration Tomorrow Against Israeli Atrocities Against Palestinians

May 13, 2022

I had this bit of news come today in an email newsletter from the Stop the War Coalition. Following the fatal shooting of a journalist for Arab news agency, al-Jazeera, the Coalition are organisation a protest tomorrow, 14th May 2022, outside the Beeb’s headquarters in Portland Place in the Smoke. The email reads

Protest for Palestine – Tomorrow!

Israel’s murder of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in occupied Jenin is part of an escalation of violence against Palestinians. She was fatally shot in the head by Israeli forces while reporting on a military raid in the Jenin refugee camp yesterday. Her murder is described by Al-Jazeera as an “assassination in cold blood.”

The shameful and disturbing scenes of occupation forces attacking her funeral today highlight the urgent need to end Israeli apartheid. People across the world are taking to the streets to demand that Israeli forces are held to account and push for an end to the oppression of Palestinians.


Join us tomorrow at midday outside the BBC on Portland Place. The Palestinian people need our solidarity now more than ever.

Click Here for Full Details

Somehow I don’t think the lady’s shooting was entirely accidental. One of the articles in the Counterpunch book about the decline of critical reportage, especially of Bush and Blair’s Gulf War, End Times: The End of the Fourth Estate, discussed the number of journos who’d been killed covering the war. This isn’t exactly suspicious in itself, as war reporting, by its very nature, is extremely dangerous. But these were journalists who didn’t follow the approved Pentagon line, and were determined to show what was really happening rather than follow American state propaganda. William Blum in one of his book on American imperialism attacked the hypocrisy of the American government for decrying enemy attacks on civilian news broadcasting stations and journalists, while at the same time doing exactly the same. One major example was the American strike against the Serbian state broadcaster during the war in Yugoslavia. It looks to me that Abu Akleh was deliberately shot because she was a journalist for al-Jazeera, and therefore would have been instrumental in producing footage and commentary of what was really going on, outside Israeli and American spin.

Stop the War Coalition’s Day of Action Tomorrow

May 6, 2022

I got this email just this afternoon from Stop the War Coalition giving the details of the protests and demonstrations they’re holding against the war in Ukraine tomorrow. They’re almost entirely in England, but there is one in Glasgow for any Scots, who may wish to join in and another in Cardiff for the people of Wales. The email states

Tomorrow: International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine

Towns and cities across the UK will be alive with anti-war activity tomorrow as part of the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine.

We are calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops in Ukraine, an end to the military escalation by NATO countries and for all efforts to be focused on finding a negotiated solution to the horrific war in the country.

A Scotland-wide demonstration is set to march through Glasgow and protests will also be taking place in Bournemouth, Brighton, Manchester and Newcastle.

Stalls and speak-outs have also been organised in over 30 locations. Find yours below…

BathBath Abbey, 11:30am – 12:30pm

Bournemouth: Protest – Bournemouth Square, 2pm

BrightonProtest – Brighton Clock Tower, 2pm

Cardiff: Queen St (near M&S), 2pm

Essex – Colchester: Stop the War Stall @ Climate Jobs Trades Council Event, Headgate Theatre, Chapel Street North, 11:30am-4pm

Essex – Harlow: Obelisk, Harlow Town Centre, 1-2pm

Hastings: Hastings Town Centre, 12-1pm

Huddersfield: Street stall and protest. Market Cross, Huddersfield Town Centre, HD1 2AA, 12.30 pm

Glasgow: Stop the War in Ukraine – Scotland National Demonstration, Assemble: 11:30am @ Blythswood Square

Leeds: Outside body shop, Briggate, 1:30-3:30pm

Lewes: Top of Cliff High Street, 12pm

London – Ealing: Ealing Broadway, Lloyds Bank, 12:30 – 2pm

London – Enfield: Enfield Town, Barclays Bank, 12pm

London – Hackney: Narrow Way, 2pm

London – Islington: Highbury & Islington Station, 12 – 2pm

London – Kentish Town: Kentish Town Station, 12 – 1:30pm

London – Lewisham: Lewisham Clock Tower, 11- 1pm

London – Newham: Opposite St John’s Church, 12-1:30pm

London – Walthamstow: Walthamstow Town Square, 1pm

Liverpool – Top of Church Street, 2-4pm

Milton Keynes- Outside M&S/opposite Civic Offices, 12pm

Manchester – Piccadilly Gardens, M1 1RN, 11am-1pm

Newcastle – Protest: Assemble, Grey’s Monument, 12 noon

Norwich: Speak Out: Haymarket, 2pm

Oxford: Bonn Square – Stall/Vigil/Mass Leafletting, 12-4:30pm

Portsmouth: Palmerston Rd Precinct, Southsea, 12pm

Plymouth: Sundial, Armada Way, 12pm

Sheffield: Sheffield Town Hall, 1pm

ShrewsburyPride Hill, 10:30am, 12pm

Southampton: The Bargate, High Street, 1-2pm

Swansea: Swansea Centre, 11:30-12:30pm

York: Shambles, York Town Centre, 12pm

Share the List of Events

We are asking all activists involved to upload pictures to social media and tag us @STWUK or use the hashtag #PeaceForUkraine

Please can you also email pictures to us at office@stopwar.org.uk if you would like your event included in the end of day report.

Do write to us and let us know how you get on!’

The email also includes notice of forthcoming protests in support of the Palestinians on the 14th May, and against the siting of nuclear weapons at Lakenheath on the 21st.

Protest for Palestine – Saturday 14 May

Join us on Sat 14th May to call for an end to Israel’s oppression and to assert the right of the Palestinian people to live in freedom with justice and equality.

The Palestinian people need our solidarity now more than ever.

Click Here for Full Details

Stop Nukes Coming to Lakenheath – 21st May

It has been revealed that Britain is to become the sixth country in Europe to host US nuclear weapons. The expected location: RAF Lakenheath, a US Air Force base in Suffolk – 70 miles from London.

Creating the conditions for siting American nuclear weapons in Britain puts us on the front line of a nuclear war. It is tantamount to painting a target on the back of everyone in this country.

We’re joining the CND protest at RAF Lakenheath on Sat 21 May. Transport is being organised from across the country. If you’d like to join us click the button below. 

Find Your Nearest Transport

Yiddish Revolutionary Song – ‘In Ale Gasn’

May 6, 2022

I’ve also put up one or two videos of left-wing Jewish songs in English and Yiddish, like ‘The March of the Jobless Corps’. That song reflects the reality of unemployment in Britain and America today, as well as recalling the National Union of the Unemployed, set up by the Communists in Britain during the great recession of the ’30s. But these songs are also a challenge to the Blairites in the Labour party. They show that contrary to Starmer’s attitude to Jews and socialists in the party and that of the various Zionist organisations and the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbinate, Jewish working people formed a strong part of the international working class movement, including anarchism, socialism and Marxism. But their modern left-wing and genuinely socialist counterparts are ‘the wrong kind of Jews’ for the current wretched Labour leadership. And so we’ve had the nasty spectacle of the genuinely anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn smeared as an anti-Semite, and also his Jewish and gentile followers. And part of this is because he was supported by left-wing Jewish organisations and people, critical of Israel and its persecution of the Palestinians. And so there have been attacks on Jewish Voice for Labour and its leader, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, while Corbyn was attacked for spending a Passover Seder with Jewdas at their invitation. These people are ‘the wrong kind of Jews’, and as a result, 4/5 of the people smeared and expelled from the party for such ideological deviation are Jewish. Which very clearly shows that all these claims of combating anti-Semitism are pure, malignant nonsense.

This song celebrates the overthrow of the Tsar, and is from Jack Ross’ channel on YouTube. The description accompanying the piece states that it was attributed to the anarchists, but was also popular in the Bund, the main eastern European Jewish socialist party in the Russian Empire. It’s almost entirely in Yiddish, but there is a chorus in English.

Many of the Bolsheviks and other Russian revolutionaries were Jews, as well as members of other nationalities in the Russian empire. They were oppressed by the tsarist state. Jewish settlement was limited to ‘the pale’ and there were restrictions on what jobs they could do. The tsars also used conscription into the army as a form of forced conversion. Nicholas II was particularly anti-Semitic, and believed firmly in the old, vile myth of the blood libel. He tried, unsuccessfully, to prosecute a young lad, Bielis, for it, which was so bonkers it actually embarrassed the secret police. It’s therefore not remotely surprising that socialist Jews would celebrate the tsar’s fall and give their loud support to the Revolution.

Capitalism and Property Rights in the West and Islam

March 25, 2022

Private property is very much at the heart of modern Conservatism. Conservative intellectuals, politicians and activists maintain that private industry is more efficient and effective, and has raised more people out of poverty than alternative economic systems. It’s also a fundamental right, a mainstay of western democracy that has prevented Europeans and Americans from tyrannical government, whether absolute monarchies or soviet-style communist dictatorships. It’s also supposedly the reason why Britain and the West currently dominate the rest of the world. The Times journo Niall Ferguson wrote a book about this a few years ago, which accompanied a TV series. In his analysis, Britain was able to out-compete Spain as a colonial power because British democracy gave people a stake in their society, while the only stakeholder in Spain was the king.

This can be challenged from a number of directions. Firstly, early modern Britain wasn’t democratic. The vote was restricted to a small class of gentlemen, meaning people who were lower than the aristocracy, but nevertheless were still able and expected to live off their rents. At the same time, although the power of the monarchy was restricted by the constitution and parliament, it still possessed vast power. Kings could go for years without calling one. As for Drake and the Armada, we were also saved by the weather. There was a ‘Protestant wind’ which blew apart and disrupted the Spanish fleet. As for capitalism, more recent books like The Renaissance Bazaar have shown that the new capitalist institutions that were introduced in Italy and thence to the rest of Europe during the renaissance were based on those further east in the Islamic world. And far from western global domination being inevitable, in the 15th century Christian Europeans feared that they would be conquered by Islam. The Turks had blazed through the Balkans and took 2/3 of Hungary. One fifteenth century German soldier and writer, de Busbecq, feared that the Ottomans would conquer Christendom because of the meritocracy and professionalism of their armies. The Ottomans, along with other Muslim states, recruited their armies through enslavement. It’s the origin of the Mamlukes in Egypt and the slave dynasties in Delhi. But these slaves were given an intensive military training, as well as education in Islam and the Turkish language, and promoted on their merits. Jonathan A.C. Brown in his book, slavery & Islam, how further back in Islamic history Black African slaves had been appointed the governors of parts of Iraq. The result was that while the European armies were feudal, led by aristocrats who had been born to their position and held it despite their ability or lack thereof, the Ottoman’s were manned and led by well-trained soldiers who held their commands by merit. We had better armour than the Ottomans, but they were able to defeat us because they were simply better soldiers.

Property rights have been a fundamental part of western political theory for a very long time. The social contract theory of government held that the primordial human community had elected kings to protect their lives and property. But Islam also maintained that property was a fundamental human right. According to Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Islam & Slavery, from the 700s AD Muslim jurists discussed the issue of human rights – huquq al-‘Ibad, or the rights of (God’s) slaves, i.e. humans, or huquq al-Adamiyya, or Adamic rights, or human rights. These were held to be the rights possessed by all humans, whether Muslim or not. Under the great Islamic theologian al-Ghazzali, these were expanded into five universals: protection for the integrity of life, reason, religion, lineage and paternity and property. He concludes that ‘The Islamic rights of physical inviolability and property can be seen as counterparts or perhaps forerunners of these aims.’ (pp. 299-300). I’ll admit this came as something of a surprise to me, because unless you study Islam at a higher level, you don’t hear about it. And you definitely don’t hear about it from the conservative right, who seem to believe that property rights and virtuous capitalism are something that only the Anglo-Saxon peoples invented. Remember George W. Bush’s famous, ludicrous sneer at the French that they had ‘no word for entrepreneurship’. Well,, they have, as attested by the word ‘entrepreneur’.

And property rights are not automatically intrinsic to modern concepts of freedom and democracy. They arose long before the expansion of the franchi8se in the 19th century and the emergence of universal adult suffrage in the early 20th century. Over much of western history, property rights meant the rights of the property owning upper classes against the working masses. And slaves could not own property, as legally, following the precedent of Roman law, they were property. Anything they had automatically belonged to their masters. Property rights were also regularly invoked to defend slavery. That’s very apparent when you read the protests against the British government’s attempts to regulate and then finally abolish slavery in the 19th century. The slaveowners were incensed by what they viewed as a tyrannical governmental interference in their property rights.

Now I agree people do have a right to private property, though private enterprise in many spheres is certainly not adequate to provide decent services. These are the utilities, education and healthcare. I also believe that, following Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the west was able to gain ascendancy through technological and scientific advances, particularly military. I think the development of western capitalism also played a part in creating a mass, industrial society that was more efficient and advanced than the craft economies of the Islamic world. But this does not mean capitalism, or at least its antecedents, were absent from Islam or that Islam had no conception of property rights.

Perhaps, before we go to war with these countries to liberate them for multinational corporations, we should stop listening to Conservatives and listen more to those academics and experts, who actually know something about Islam.

Latest Bulletin and Appeal from Stop the War Coalition for People to Hold Local Meetings

March 18, 2022

I also got this message today from the Stop the War Coalition detailing their protests and meetings across the country and appealing for people to get in touch if they also want to hold one. This is well beyond my abilities, but I’m putting this email up and its appeal in case there are readers interested in doing so, or attending any of the meetings that have already been planned.

Newsletter – 18/03/22

No to War in Ukraine

The horrific war in Ukraine continues so it’s vital that the anti-war movement works as hard as possible to cement our argument for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and a negotiated settlement, not no-fly zones and increased militarisation.

Our groups have been spreading the anti-war message by holding public meetings, rallies and teach-ins across the country. But we want there to be meetings in every single town and city so if you’re interested in hosting a meeting please get in touch…

Yes, I’d Like to Host a Meeting

Next Saturday (26 March), leading activists and experts are coming together for a teach-in on the war at London’s Mary Ward House, 5-7 Tavistock Pl, WC1H 9SN to look at the roots of the disaster in Ukraine and how to bring this war to an end.

We’re very pleased to announce that there will be anti-war speakers from both Ukraine and Russia joining us.

Tickets for this in-person event are limited so register as soon as possible to avoid missing out…

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Yemen: A 7-Year Long Crime – Online Meeting

In January of this year over 400 civilians were killed or injured in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in their war on one of the poorest countries on earth – Yemen.

The war is approaching its seventh year. It’s a war in which British personnel produce the bombs, train the pilots, coordinate air strikes and gather intelligence. All while our government provides political cover and our media largely turns a blind eye.

Join us and Liberation on Zoom later in the day on 26 March to call for an immediate end to this horrendous British-backed war.

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2022 AGM – 23 April

We’re pleased to announce that Stop the War’s 2022 AGM will be held at Mander Hall, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London, WC1H 9BD on Sat 23 April from 11am-4pm.

The AGM is where the policy and priorities of the coalition are discussed and decided, and where our steering committee and officers are elected. We hope that you will be able to join us and contribute to the discussions. All members are entitled and encouraged to attend.

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This Week’s Anti-War Briefing

Starmer has demonstrated his own true colours in all this by denouncing the Coalition as ‘a Russian stooge’. Jeremy Corbyn, who is an active supporter, has made it very clear there’s no evidence for it. Indeed, I don’t see any. In fact they have condemned the Russian invasion, as has Corbyn himself who also actively opposed human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union and in ‘democratic’ Russia.

This is exactly the same lie Thatcher and the Tories used against CND in the 1980s, along with the line that they were a Communist organisation. No, they weren’t. One of my College friends, who was left-wing, had been a member. And he told me that some of their members were definitely not people of the left. Like Enoch Powell, of ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech infamy. Powell had appalling views on race and was one of the first to promote the failed economic god of monetarism, but apparently he supported CND. So there was some decency in him.

As for Starmer, I see no decency or honour there at all, just a typical Thatcherite with no scruples and a thirst for power, lying and betraying every decent principle in order to get his rear end in No. 10.

Novara Media on Fascism in Ukraine

March 16, 2022

This video from Novara Media aims to set the record straight about the far right in Ukraine, refuting Putin’s lie that he is liberating the country from Fascism. Hosts Michael Walker and Aaron Bastani talk about the Maidan, or Orange Revolution, that saw the pro-Russian Ukrainian president ousted in favour of a pro-western, pro-EU candidate. The pair state that the revolution was completely democratic. Umm, possibly. In fact the revolution was overseen by Victoria Nuland for Hillary Clinton’s state department and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the quango to which the American state delegated the job of regime change when they took it away from the CIA. Not that this means that Zelensky is an American puppet or that Putin’s invasion is at all justified. They make the point that it was a popular revolution, but that far right groups were also involved and talk about the attack on a trade union building. This was set alight, several trade unionists were shot and killed, and Nazi graffiti was scrawled on the building. However, the identity of the attackers is unknown.

The Fascist groups active in Ukraine include the followers of Stepan Bandera, who fought for the Nazis as an SS auxiliary during World War II before turning against the Nazis. The Ukrainian authorities caused outrage a few years ago when they honoured him as a national hero. His followers today also wear SS auxiliary uniforms. Then there’s the infamous Azov Battalion, whose uniform includes the SS ‘wolfsangel’ badge and who have been active fighting the Russian separatists in the east. Walker and Bastani state that they try to recruit western Fascists, and the film includes a brief interview with a Swedish Nazi who joined them. They’ve also turned up in this country to try and gather the bigoted and stupid here. They rocked up at one of the neo-Nazi demonstrations a few years ago along with a group of Italian Fascisti. The Azov Battalion run a Fascist summer camp for children, shots of which show school age kids doing exercises and learning to shoot. They also have a very slick recruitment video. This shows them marching about, ready to defend the fatherland with a voiceover boasting about their patriotic values and ending with ‘Join us’. Also in this toxic stew is the Right Sector. There are interviews with various members of these horrendous groups, who say, among other things, how attractive the idea of ‘one nation’, but deny that everyone in these organisations is a Fascist. One high-ranking member successfully sued a journalist for calling him a Nazi, despite the fact that Nazi ideology is very much what their wretched rants sound like. The video includes a clip of one of their leaders at rally ranting from a stage about homosexuality. It’s unnatural, and being promoted by a certain racial group. Gosh! I wonder who he could mean? Yeah, it’s the old Fascist anti-Semitism. Years ago The Young Turks discussed these bonkers Nazi conspiracy theories. Ben Mankiewicz, one of their guests, responded to them by saying that if there is a Jewish conspiracy, nobody told him. I’ve seen other videos attacking various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in which other Jews and people of Jewish descent have said the same thing. And if the Jews were so keen to promote it, why does Miriam Margolyes need to work with an organisation for gay Jews dedicated to challenging prejudice in the Jewish community? I’m not saying that Jews are any more prejudiced against gays than anyone else. I merely mention it to show how stupid and wrong the accusation that they’re pushing homosexuality is.

Bastani and Walker state that Zelensky himself is a political moderate and Jewish. As for these Nazis, the most they got at an election was 10 per cent of the vote. That’s a lot, but not the same as Jobbik in Hungary, which got 20 per cent. From this high point their share of the vote has declined to 2 per cent. This is roughly the normal proportion of votes gained by Fascist groups across Europe, including the BNP and NF in this country. Under normal circumstances, Fascists aren’t popular. The problem in Ukraine is that these scumbags have been taken up and formed links with members of the political elite, including a judge. The Azov Battalion has also been merged with the Ukrainian army, which has led its apologists to claim that it’s no longer a Fascist organisation. Fuelling support for the far right is the decline in living standards. Over the last 30 years the Ukrainian population has shrunk by 8 – 10 million, and the life expectancy is now what it was in the 1960s. I have a feeling that’s another consequence of the collapse of communism. My guess is that the dismantlement of the Communist economy and its replacement with capitalism has led to the same kind of poverty, unemployment and the closure of businesses and factories that has occurred elsewhere in the former Communist bloc. Just as Yeltsin’s wholesale privatisations in Russia resulted in the complete meltdown of the Russian economy. Putin’s popularity among ordinary Russians is partly based on his restoration of economic stability after the chaos the old drunk caused. And I understand that depopulation has also been a factor in the rise of the Nazi right in Germany. According to an online conversation with a German anti-fascist posted by left vlogger Kevin Logan, the former east Germany has been hit particularly hard with the transition to capitalism. Many of the former country’s industries and businesses have been unable to compete, and so have closed down. As a result, whole towns and villages have been abandoned as their people have moved away to seek employment elsewhere. When you have an economic crisis like that, people start looking around for a scapegoat, and Fascism provides it in the shape of immigrants and Jews.

I also think that whatever popularity Fascism has is also partly due to its claim to be a third political alternative against socialism and capitalism. Communism failed, capitalism isn’t living up to its promise and so some may turn to Fascism as an alternative.

Walker and Bastani also point out that there are other political groups fighting the Russians, including anarchists, so it isn’t true that the Fascists are the only people defending the country apart from the regular army. They also make it clear that they feel that the regular Ukrainian deserves its support from the West. It’s just that this should not be given to the Azov Battalion and the rest of the Fascists.

Ukrainian-Australian Instrumentalist Larysa Kovalchuk Talks about the Bandura

March 14, 2022

Ukraine’s president Zelenskyy has said that he fears that Putin’s invasion is designed to wipe his country off the map and erase its history and culture. I’ve noticed that along with armed resistance by the Ukrainian armed forces and civilians, there have also been a number of videos posted to YouTube from Ukrainians, including those in the West, about their national instrument, the bandura. It’s described as a ‘lute-zither’, and the entry for it in Anthony Baines, The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments (Oxford: OUP 1992) runs as follows

‘A popular Ukrainian instrument looking like a large lop-sided lute and held almost vertically on the lap. The body, with a back shaped rather like a shallow basin, bulges out on the treble side and, across this, up to 36 metal strings (called pristrunki) fan out to tuning pins placed round the edge, which has a thick rim to hold them. These are chromatically turned melody strings, plucked by the right hand. Over the short neck run six or more bass strings, mostly plucked by the left hand.

‘The bandura, going back to the 18th century, formerly accompanied minstrels’ songs and ballads, but its ringing, harp-like tone is now heard in popular orchestras. There was also, played mostly in the first half of the 19th century, the torban or ‘Russian theorbo’ (or ‘gentleman’s bandura’), in app0earance like a theorbo and and again with pristrunki, here diatonic (as in older banduras), as well as fretted strings and long bass strings. Bandura and torban are both said to have been brought to Russia by Italian musicians in the 17th century (there is, in fact, a Paduan instrument of c. 1390, now in Vienna, with similar treble strings , perhaps related to the pandura which the lutenist Piccini later (1623) named as having been his invention.’ (p. 19).

In this video, Ukrainian-born Australian Larysa Kovalchuk talks about the instrument and briefly demonstrates its ringing sound. She states, however, that it has 64 strings, but also says that it’s also sued to play harp and harpsichord music. Ukrainians are proud of their national instrument, which no other people play. It is indeed a fascinating instrument, and I hope it will soon be played once again in peace rather than in this terrible war.